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If you have been anything like me lately and practically running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you’ll know that there is nothing more desirable than a peaceful place to escape to in order to leave the bustle and stress of Paris behind. While this place could have a variety  of names (Cote d’Azur, Biarritz…to name a few), there is one that you might not have thought of and that won’t break your bank.

It’s called Giverny. Yes, like in Claude Monet‘s Giverny. A glorious place where a serene calm reigns and a natural beauty is in abundance. Only an hour from Paris by car, and an hour and a half by train (trains leave out of Gare St. Lazare and get into Vernon – from Vernon it’s a 15 miunute bus ride), Giverny is close enough to do a day trip, and well worth a weekend stay. A small ivy covered town, its a step back into the past to a time when artists such as Claude Monet flocked to the countryside to capture pictoresque landscapes on their canvases and sip tea in a blossoming garden. Giverny, with its quaint cafes and darling bread and breakfasts allows one to slow down and take in what was the great inspiration behind some of the most stunning chef d’oeuvres of the 19th century. Lily ponds, flower gardens, orchards, row boats… Giverny has preseved it all and is a must see at any time of the year.

For museum information visit the Claude Monet Foundation’s website. The museum holds original pieces and often has great exhibitions, the current one is impressionism featuring. I highly recommend visiting Claude Monet’s house and garden, which allows you to see how he lived at the time, and to visit his unique gardens and lily pond. The walls of his house are adorned by an exquisite collection of Japanese art that Monet cherished – so also very much worth the visit. For those who love impressionism, viewing the actual lily pond is truly a spectacular sight that could keep you gazing dreamily for hours! My photos don’t do it justice!

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A couple weekends ago, my friend Maggie and I road tested a rockin’ brunch place in the 7th arrondissement called Coutume. We couldn’t have been more pleased! Surprised by their reasonable prices (considering the area), the great food, and almost scientific coffee, the whole brunch experience ended up lasting a good three hours!

Coutume’s specialty is by far their coffee. Roasting the beans themselves, they have a large selection of pain-stakingly chosen coffee beans that once roasted, are used to produce their coffee beverages which are prepared in four different ways: expresso machine, siphon (very strong), conical drip, and the very rare cold drip apparatus. For coffee conoisseurs, there isn’t anything else like this in Paris, so a definite must!

However after a coffee or two, if you have the tendacy to get the jitters like Maggie and I, you might want to sit down and enjoy the 3 course 20 euro brunch. A to die for home-made muesli with apple compote and fromage blanc starts it off in addition to freezed squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. The next course can be a standard eggs and bacon with potatoes, or variations with salmon, or a breakfast burrito. Everything was just delicious and the service was unprententious and helpful, always a plus!

The ambiance, with its beaker water carafes and clipboard menus, was halfway between laboratory and trendy resto. With plants creatively growing out of sinks, bags of green coffee beans lining the back, unfinished paint on the walls, and a large roaster, one gets the taste of the craft and science involved in making good coffee while enjoying a warm luminous yet slightly industrial atmosphere.

Coutume welcomes the coffee drinker with his or her newspaper (or should we say iPad these days?), so don’t feel obligated to brunch if you just want to hang out at the coffee bar or study. We saw several people in there who were simply enjoying a great coffee while websurfing or reading! So give it a try, experiments in this “lab” are always a success!

Coutume

47 rue de Babylone

75007, Paris

http://www.coutumecafe.com/ (site in progress)

So it wouldn’t be fair to do a posting on Merci, without doing a posting on Grazie. As you might have guessed by the name, the two are indeed related, with the later being a pizzeria opened by Marie France Cohen’s* son, Julien. Located just two blocks down from Merci, I went there last weekend at the suggestion of a friend.

Grazie most definitely has a New York feel. Minimalist in its décor, Julien decided to let the old crusty character of the building speak for itself. Industrial metal beams break up the space giving intimacy to the small tables interspersed in between them while the yellowed molding on the ceiling takes you back to New York diners in the 70s. While the crowd is as bobo as you can get and trying way too hard, at least the place isn’t.

I started the evening with a delicious basil honey grapefruit cocktail that I loved, but I wasn’t so hot about the 12 euro price tag. Dinner on the other hand was much more reasonable, and truly delicious. My vegetarian pizza had a perfect crust (not too thin,
not too thick) and tasty grilled vegetables with flavorful mozzarella. Definitely a winner.  Dessert was likewise very good, however again, 10 euros for two scoops of gelati is a bit excessive.

Overall, it is definitely worth trying, and if you do, I would suggest making a reservation in advance because the place was full on a Wednesday night! Keep you posted if they come out with a Thank You anytime soon! 😉

Grazie
91 boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003, Paris  
Open everyday for lunch and dinner
 01 42 78 11 96

*Marie-France Cohen is the owner of Merci, discussed in my previous post.

Well, it took my long enough to finally find this fashion/interior deco mecca, but la Grisette found it, and boy did she ever! For someone who could live in an Anthropologie store, it was tough not having an equivalent in Paris… until Merci.

A concept store that resembles a trendy oversized loft, Merci houses what I would love to be my closet, full of Isabel Marant, Stella McCartney, YSL, and purses by Jérôme Dreyfuss.  The lower level has sections dedicated to men’s and women’s wear, including  a small jewelry section with up and coming designers, and a perfume counter. I recently got my hands on a wonderful new Annick Goutal for Merci scent called “Eau du Sud”, I love it because it’s incredibly fresh and not just a rehashed sickeningly sweet designer scent! The place is a vrai regal for the Parisian fashionista!

But then, it gets better with its upstairs level featuring amazing furniture and furnishings that range from a very organic style to a more colder modern feel.  Light fixtures, couches, tables, shelving, you name they have it, and you’ll probably want it. The only holding you (said me) back…are the prices. But that said, Merci is “charity store” in that it donates %100 of the profit to a charity that helps women and children in Madagascar, a country that suffers from intense poverty. So NO GUILT on the purchases!!

Going just go for the experience is definitely worth it, even if you don’t plan on buying anything. They have a really cozy café with all kinds of fancy teas and cocktails, which you can enjoy while getting your daily dose of people watching !



Need an apartment in Paris without the hassle of fighting the crowds? Maybe a gently used microwave or washing machine?

Little known (but quickly starting to become better known) site called Le Bon Coin is the site for you. While everyone knows about Craigslist and Kikiji (now Ebay), Le Bon Coin still has a local feel to it and some killer deals. My current intern recently found an excellent apartment for a great price, something she wasn’t able to do on Pap.fr without running against the clock to squeeze in a visit only to find that the price has gone up and that fifty other people were waiting to visit it.

Le Bon Coin can be used to search for anything, anywhere in France as it lists all the regions, including the overseas ones.

Happy Bargain Hunting!!

http://www.leboncoin.fr/

© Institut de France – Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris

Having recently seen Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” and re-lived the magical rich layers of culture that Paris possesses, I decided right then that I was going to wake up from my daily grind and end my “cultural education” hiatus. When on my way to work the following day I saw the poster for the current Caillebotte exhibit, I said to myself, “Okay, Daniella, let’s start here.”

The Caillebotte exhibit is currently on display at what was unexpectedly the most magnificent hôtel particulier I have seen. Dating back to 1875, it was the demeure of Edouard André and his wife Nélie Jacquemart. The couple was passionate about art, and thus the museum now houses one the most ravishing private collections of art in Paris. While I originally went to see the Caillebotte exhibit, I ended up spending most of my time exploring the hotel and the private collection than the exihibit itself.

@ Parisbestlodge

The Jacquemart-André museum bings to life the luxury and lifestyle of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and includes an extaordinary staircase designed by Henri Parent, the biggest rival of Charles Garnier, architect of the Opera Garnier. Wandering throught the rooms, and spending time in the courtyards or café, you forget that you are in the heart of Paris, and a five minute walk from the famous Champs-Elysées. You tend to feel a bit like Cinderella, and can just imagine a carriage pulling up and picking you up to go to the next ball.

While I do highly recommend the Caillebotte exhibit to those interested in impressionist art and its juxtaposition against photography, a new technology at the time, the museum itself is worth a visit any day of the week, special exhibit or not. It is definitely my new favorite museum in Paris!!

To get a little taste of the extravagance, here is link to the museum photo galleries: http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/fr/jacquemart/607-galerie_photos/

Musée Jacquemart-André

158, bd Haussmann

75008 Paris

Tél. : 01 45 62 11 59

http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/

Ourcq Canal

Not too long ago, I was enjoying an afterwork picnic on the banks of the Ourcq canal with some friends. As I gazed at the moss green water, I contemplated what it must have served as back in the day…perhaps a way to transport goods into the city? Where does it start?

That’s when I decided it might be worth exploring…exploring by bike. The following weekend, along with a friend, I rented a bike for a day at 20 euros (see here) and set out to ride up the Ourcq canal for as far as I could go.

The Poudrerie Forest

With no cars and a paved bike path the whole way, I rode approximately twenty kilometers to discover, to my suprise, grassy lawns, flowers, fishermen, kayakers, and a peaceful forest (Le Parc National Forestier de la Poudrerie).

Not only was I getting some serious exercise, but I really felt like I was outside of Paris on an adventure. Once we got out of a slightly industrial zone just north of the Parc de la Villette, it was just a long tree-lined rode along the glistening Ourcq canal. When we came across the Poudrerie forest, we pedaled on some trails through the forest and found ourselves the perfect picnic spot facing a large pond with a small island in it. Very picturesque!

Fishermen along the canal

While the Ourcq canal continued on without us, its source still a mystery, we vowed that the next bike ride would start off from where we started. We’ll get to the end someday!

All in all, if you want an outdoor, sporty day trip outside Paris for cheap, cycling up the Ourcq would definitely be up your alley. Just make sure you bring a picnic and som sunscreen, as there is hardly anything along the canal, and you are exposed to the elements. However, if you make it to the Poudrerie forest, there are some small snack shops, and one in particular that is inside a building that ressembles small castle.

Here is site (in French) with a good map and some background information: http://www.aufildelourcq.org/loisirs/promvelo.php

Happy cycling this summer!!

So today’s beauty feature on La Grisette is consecrated to a mascara that keeps its promises. Yves Saint Laurent’s Faux Cils in high density black isn’t dry, doesn’t get all crumbly underneath your eyes like Dior’s DiorShow mascara, and provides length and volume like it says it does. And NO CLUMPING. Hallelujah!

I was a bit hesitant to buy it at first after having had a disappointing bout with DiorShow. I was thinking, well, luxury brand…drug store brand…is there a huge difference? I would say when it comes to YSL’s Faux Cils, there definitely is. Not only is it long lasting (and I am not even using the waterproof version) but it comes off easily when I am in a hurry to wash my face and hop into bed after a grueling day.

I know I might be sounding like a commercial right about now, but this week is dedicated to describing all the good beauty stuff I use daily after having gone through some trial and error in order to figure out what really works. This is just my honest two cents on mascaras (for this posting) and beauty products in general that are currently on the market!

My last word on mascara is Nivea. If you are scraping the barrel this month and don’t want to shell out the extra moola for the pricey Frenchie stuff, check out Nivea’s Extension Nanodefinition mascara. It provides great separation and length, and if you add another layer you can get pretty decent volume. I was using it before I took the plunge to try YSL, and I had my boss asking me what mascara I used! Definitely worth trying!!

Deauville beach

Nothing announces the arrival of summer like a trip to the beach!! While Paris might seem rather isolated from any swimmable bodies of water (the Seine should not be considered swimmable, and neither should the Canal St. Martin though I have seen a brave drunk soul in the latter), Paris is only a two hour train ride away from large sandy Atlantic beaches.

Deauville-Trouville,  twin coastline towns in Normandy,  are absolutely  fabulous destinations for those looking to get out of the city for the weekend or even the day.  Trains go out of Paris’s Gare St. Lazare every hour so you can easily get there early to enjoy a full day at the beach, and then come back at a reasonable hour after you have enjoyed a nice seafood dinner. (for a SNCF train schedule click here) The Deauville-Trouville train station is about a fifteen minute walk form the beach, and walk is really nice because it leads you through the charming town of Deauville where you can peek into darling little boutiques along the way.

Deauville's twin town, Trouville.

Deauville’s beach is a classic with all its multi-colored umbrellas, beach front cafés, and of course the “changing rooms” of the rich and famous. The boardwalk offers public restrooms, ice cream stands, sandwich places and the odd beach store selling hats, sunscreen, towels….and anything else you might have forgotten. Just don’t expect it to be cheap! The water temperature in summer is refreshing and warm, okay, so not Mediterranean warm, but warm enough for enjoyable swimming and splashing around.

I have made it a yearly tradition to go with friends, and I have yet to be disappointed! It is truly a mini-vacation where you’ve thoroughly escaped the hustle and bustle of Paris, and entered that “endless” summer vacation zone!

Deauville's signature umbrellas

Okay okay, so yes I am aware that McDonald’s owns Chipotle, I am aware that the blogosphere is a great community that has recently informed me that McDonald’s does NOT own Chipotle! So no damper on my excitement regarding the opening of the first Chipotle in Paris, I am ready to enjoy its deliciousness in all its glory.

As soon as it opens, I will let you know if the burritos are just as enormous and the choices of fillings are the same. Located quite close to my work, I can foresee myself frequenting Chipotle more than I’d like to…

As for the date of the grand opening, I am not sure, but it will be located on 20 Boulevard Montmartre in the ninth arrondissement, right next to a McDonald’s. Coincidence?